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was born 30 December 1936 in the village of Ewouta in the southern coastal Fernan-Vaz region of Gabon, to Anina Germaine, a member of the coastal Nkomi ethnic community. Agondjo-Okawé only met his biological father when he was fourteen years old. His mother, Anina, originally came from the nearby town of Kongo, but had difficulties with having children and turned to an herbalist in Ewouta for help. She later divorced Agondjo-Okawé’s biological father and married Charles Ping, a Chinese immigrant living in Fernan-Vaz. Their son, Agondjo-Okawé’s half-brother, Jean Ping went on to become a major figure in Gabonese politics.

In 1946 Agondjo Okawé s uncle Jean Remy Ayouné decided to have him study at the Roman Catholic mission school of Sainte Anne de Fernan Vaz It was around this time that the young boy witnessed an African colonial guard assault a woman in his village Disgusted Agondjo Okawé learned ...


Sibyl Collins Wilson

lawyer, State Supreme Court Justice, mayor of Detroit, Michigan, and president of the American Bar Association, was born in Detroit to Ernest and Frances Archer, and was raised in Cassopolis, Michigan. Determined to raise himself from poverty, and encouraged by his parents to value education, Archer was steadfast in his studies. He graduated from Cassopolis High School in 1959 and entered Western Michigan University that fall. While attending Western Michigan he pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first black collegiate fraternal organization. He graduated in 1965.

Archer had a desire to teach, so he relocated to Detroit and took a position in the Detroit schools teaching and assisting emotionally disturbed students. He met Trudy Duncombe, another young teacher, during this tenure, and they married on 17 June 1967 Although dedicated to education Archer began to prepare himself for another level of public service when he entered ...


Robert Fikes

mayor and educator, was born in rural Livingston, Alabama, to Richard Arrington Sr. and Ernestine Bell, sharecroppers. In 1940, when his father found work in a steel mill, the family moved to Fairfield, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. At Fairfield Industrial High School, Arrington took an interest in the study of history and also learned dry cleaning, a practical skill that he later used to finance his college education. In 1952, during his sophomore year at Miles College in Birmingham, he married his high school sweetheart, the former Barbara Jean Watts. Two influential professors persuaded him to major in biology, and he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1955. He went on to earn his master's degree in Biology in 1957 at the University of Detroit and in 1966 completed his PhD dissertation Comparative Morphology of Some Dryopoid Beetles at the University of Oklahoma ...


Robin Brabham

architect, politician, and community leader, was born Harvey Bernard Gantt in Charleston, South Carolina, the first of five children of Wilhelmenia Gordon and Christopher C. Gantt. His father was a skilled mechanic at the Charleston Naval Shipyard and an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and he encouraged his son to speak out against the segregated society in which they lived. Gantt graduated in 1960 from Burke High School, where he was salutatorian of his class and captain of the football team. Only a month before graduation, he helped twenty-two other student leaders from the all-black school stage a sit-in demonstration at the S. H. Kress lunch counter. In Gantt's later assessment, the action “started a change in the minds of the whole [city]” and “ultimately ended up in a movement that spread throughout all of Charleston” (Haessly, 47).

Gantt ...


Marc A. Sennewald

civil rights activist and politician. Harvey Bernard Gantt was born in 1943, in a Charleston, South Carolina, housing project. His father, Christopher Columbus Gantt Jr., worked as a shipyard mechanic by day and a dry cleaner by night, eventually saving enough money to buy a small house for his wife and five children.

As a teenager, Gantt protested racial segregation by trying to buy a soda at a whites-only lunch counter and was arrested for trespassing. In 1963, with the assistance of the NAACP, Gantt successfully desegregated the previously all-white Clemson University. His unobtrusive manner helped to avoid the violence (fifty injuries and two deaths) that had accompanied the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi a year earlier. Gantt earned his bachelor's degree in architecture from Clemson and a master's degree in urban planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 1974 ...


Kate Tuttle

The turbulent political life of Harvey Gantt has made him the most visible symbol of race-baiting in American politics in the 1990s. Gantt, who was born in Charleston, South Carolina, became Clemson University's first African American student in 1963. He later cofounded a private architectural firm, Gantt Huberman, and served as mayor of Charlotte from 1983 until 1987. He has also taught at both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Clemson.

Race became a major issue in Gantt's two campaigns to unseat North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, a conservative Republican. Following narrow electoral losses to Helms in 1990 and 1996, Gantt, his supporters, and the media all cited Helms's use of racially inflammatory political advertising.

One Helms television ad, which implied that Gantt supported race-based hiring quotas, played on white voters' fears that Affirmative Action could cost them their jobs ...


Richard Saunders

educational administrator and the first black mayor of Memphis, Tennessee, was born in Memphis to Willie Witherspoon Herenton and Ruby Lee Harris. His parents separated, and he was raised in a single-parent family. As a youth, Herenton had aspirations to being a boxer and took the Kentucky Golden Gloves, several southern AAU championships, and four Tri-State Boxing Championships in his class (flyweight) by the time he graduated from high school in 1958. He turned down a boxing scholarship to the University of Wisconsin and moved to Chicago briefly to pursue the sport professionally and then decided education offered greater stability and opportunities. He returned to Memphis and completed a college degree at LeMoyne-Owen College in 1963. There he met and married Ida Jones, with whom he had three children. They divorced in 1988. He fathered a fourth child in 2004.

Herenton began a career ...


Jessica Christina Harris

lawyer, mayor, and law school dean, was born Kurt Lidell Schmoke in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Murray A. Schmoke Sr., a civilian chemist in the U.S. Army, and Irene Bennett Reid, a social worker. Schmoke had two half siblings, a sister, Karla Reid Young, and a brother, Murray A. Schmoke Jr., who died tragically in a traffic accident in South Africa in 1994. Coming of age in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era, Schmoke's parents experienced the viciousness of racism firsthand. Their pursuit and successful completion of college degrees at that time exhibited to their son that, with steadfast faith, courage, and self-assurance, opportunity and success would be plentiful to him.

Schmoke received his early education in Baltimore's public school system. A beneficiary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954 Supreme Court decision Schmoke attended ...


Wesley Borucki

attorney, former mayor, Howard Law School dean. Kurt L. Schmoke was born into a middle-class professional family in Baltimore, Maryland. His father, Murray Schmoke, was a civilian chemist for the U.S. Army, and his mother, Irene Schmoke, was a social worker. Schmoke attended Baltimore's premier public high school, Baltimore City College, where he quarterbacked the varsity football team to two state championships. The judge Robert Hammerman mentored him in the Lancers Club, an organization of prominent Baltimore professionals that prepared young men for political careers. Schmoke entered Yale University in 1967 Yale s administration was trying to invite more minority students and Schmoke has acknowledged that he benefited from affirmative action Schmoke was clearly qualified however he showed his eloquence political acumen and leadership when he deferentially convinced the faculty to suspend university operations when violent protests threatened the campus during the murder trial of ...


Carlton Elliott Smith

mayor, was born in Fayette County, Tennessee, to Eddie Lee Smith Sr., a farmer, and Lucy Sales Smith, a homemaker. He was educated in rural schools for black children. In the early 1930s his parents moved the family to Marshall County in northwest Mississippi, eventually settling on eleven acres that became part of the town of Holly Springs. The Smiths were founding members of the town's black Pentecostal church, now known as Christ Temple, and they instilled in their twelve children, including Eddie Jr., a sense of personal piety and pride.

Smith attended high school in Holly Springs at Rust College in the 1950s and he also served in a medical unit when he enlisted as a conscientious objector during the Korean War When he returned for undergraduate classes at Rust College he was deeply impressed by the distinguished black men he saw running the campus ...


Charles Rosenberg

the son of Aiken and Jane Bruce Williams. His year of birth has occasionally been recorded as 1861 or 1862.

Although various private genealogies identify his parents as being from markedly different family trees, some traced to South Carolina, an address left by Williams in the records of Yale University after graduation matches an 1880 census entry for Aiken and Jane Williams, both born in Georgia, as were their parents. Aiken Williams’s parents were George and Lucretia Williams, living in the same household at that time. Aiken Williams worked all his life as a teamster, and Jane Williams taught school. Although Williams’s Yale classmates believed his father had died before he went to college, census records show both his parents living into the early twentieth century. He had one sister, Lucretia, named for her paternal grandmother, about whom little else is known.

Historian Leroy Davis has identified Williams as ...